A Christmas Carol

No story evokes the magic of a Victorian Christmas better than ‘A Christmas Carol’. Probably the best-known of Charles Dickens’ works, this well-loved tale with money and coins as a central theme carries the joyous message that Christmas is a time for giving and thinking of others.

As we celebrate the 200th Anniversary of Dickens’ birth in 2012, his famous story has never been more popular. ‘A Christmas Carol’ has been translated into dozens of different languages, adapted for stage and screen, and turned into an opera, ballet and Broadway musical.

Scrooge

Bah humbug! The central character Ebenezer Scrooge has entered our culture as a symbol of meanness. In the opening scene of the Disney 3-D film, Scrooge leans into a coffin and pockets the coins covering the eyes of the corpse, muttering, ‘Tuppence is Tuppence’.

Shunned by his family and friends and despised by his business associates, ‘A Christmas Carol’ tells how Scrooge the miser mends his ways when he is confronted by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come.

Humbled, he discovers that generosity can lead to happiness. He buys a goose and sends it anonymously to the impoverished Cratchit family, home of Scrooge’s loyal yet woefully underpaid clerk. It brings great joy to the whole family, especially their son, the cheerful, yet desperately ill, Tiny Tim, whose words ‘God Bless You One and All’ ends the novel.

The continued popularity of ‘A Christmas Carol’ all over the world is in part due Scrooge’s transformation and the uplifting reminder that giving to others brings so much pleasure.

Charles Dickens

It’s not surprising that coins and money are recurring themes in many of Charles Dickens’ works, as he knew both wealth and poverty during his colourful life.

Born on Friday 7 February 1812, his childhood was cut short at the age of twelve when his father was imprisoned for debt. Charles was sent to work at Warrens Blacking Factory, near to what is now Charing Cross Station. A natural observer as a child, Dickens worked as a journalist before becoming a novelist.

These vivid experiences of poverty and suffering fuelled his literary ambitions and inspired him to depict authentic characters from working-class backgrounds.

When he achieved fame and fortune, Charles Dickens shrewdly built his reputation, much as publicity-seeking celebrities do today. He travelled extensively and toured America, reading from his books and nurturing the loyalty of his readers.

When he did his first public reading to an audience of two thousand people in Covent Garden, the text he chose was from ‘A Christmas Carol’.

Charles Dickens coined the phrase ‘the inimitable’ to describe himself and indeed, no other novelist in the English language has ever matched his energy, ambition and fame or left us with such a host of memorable characters.

Dickens £2 coin

To mark the 200th anniversary of Dickens’ birth in February 2012, The Royal Mint is issuing a Dickens £2 commemorative coin, celebrating the life and work of this great man of words.